ACL food review: Olivia, Garrido’s, Odd Duck and more

By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.16.11
Prowling the food vendors before the first acts started filling the air with crosscurents of conflicting sound, I could hear a children’s choir singing Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.”
Some serious cooks have put their names on the line here, and I saw most of them making the rounds: James Holmes of Olivia, David Garrido of Garrido’s, Bryce Gilmore at Odd Duck Farm to Trailer, Sandra Bullock at Bess. No, just kidding about that one.
But I did see Fort Worth made-for-TV chef Tim Love, which leaves me puzzled why this Love Burger from his Love Shack is so awful. It’s smashed and soggy and completely bare except for food-service cheese. Who cares what the beef tastes like (it’s good), I want my $7 back. I had the same initial reaction to a small cup of truffled mac and cheese from Love’s Lonesome Dove Bistro next door. But it’s rich and deploys well-cooked orzo and expresses its truffle flavor without bashing me like the bassline of the Miniature Tigers across the way at the Austin Ventures stage. Good music, propelled with a disco-funk backbeat, like MGMT with better vocals.
If this is the fried chicken we can expect from James  Holmes’ Olivia spinoff called Lucy’s when it opens in the former Nueva Onda spot, go ahead and line me up now. A paper boat groans under the weight of three pieces for $7. It’s far and away the best food deal in the park for sheer volume of food for the price and quality. Fryers at a music festival can turn out an armored, spicy, tawny-brown crust and still leave the chicken with a little attitude? Impressive.
Garrido’s and Odd Duck get special recognition for staying true to what they do in real life even in the middle of a festival. If you’ve ever watched Bryce Gilmore cook, you’ve seen the intense concentration on his face as he works like a scientist. Not the mad kind, the completely focused kind who’d make a good meth-lab partner on “Breaking Bad.” He channels the quirky energy of his Odd Duck trailer into a dish of grilled corn with arugula and farm egg with red pepper and aioli ($6). The egg is cooked to that perfectly unstable state between raw and poached, and its yolk pulls together the other elements into something that tastes like it was fussed over in controlled circumstances instead of whipped together from rolling racks at Zilker Park.
David Garrido does the same thing with his signature fried oyster tacos. At two for $8, they’re about the same price he charges at his downtown restaurant, and they’re pulled off with the same skill: a light crust over tender oysters with red cabbage, pico de gallo and tomatillo salsa. And Garrido knows that here in Texas, we double up our corn tortillas.
At Bess Bistro’s booth, a tray of fried artichoke hearts didn’t win points for beauty, but it won back any lost points with light frying, some light seasoning and a decent amount of food for $6. An interlude for carnivore or vegetarian at a food court that caters to both.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)